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Mailbag #15: Winter Meetings Recap

How many days until Pitchers and Catchers, again?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
Is Hector Neris still a pitcher to shop?
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

40 Man Roster

Instead of a prospect spotlight this week - I am deep into writing my Top 50 Prospects, which will arrive later - I want to talk about the state of the Phillies 40-man roster following the Winter Meetings, because is it is fascinating. First, here is how I break down the roster (without accounting for signings or trades):

MLB Lock Hitters (8): Rupp, Joseph, Hernandez, Galvis, Franco, Kendrick, Herrera, Altherr
MLB Lock Starting Pitchers (4): Nola, Velasquez, Hellickson, Eickhoff
MLB Lock Relief Pitchers (6): Neris, Gomez, Benoit, Neshek, Ramos, Rodriguez
Minor League Locks (10): Alfaro, Anderson, Tirado, Pinto, Appel, Cozens, Williams, E. Garcia, Lively, Pivetta

That leaves these spots remaining for the last 12 players on the 40-man roster: 5 bench/RF bats, 1 Starting Pitcher, 1 Relief Pitcher, 5 Minor Leaguers.

Here are the players you either use or cut to make this work: Klein, Gonzalez, Morgan, Asher, L. Garcia, Knapp, Valentin, Goeddel, Quinn, D. Rollins, Eflin, Thompson

At first glance there are only four hitters here, even though the Phillies need five, and it would leave the Phillies with a very young bench. There are also four starting pitchers here for one spot, meaning three of them likely take up minor league spots and leave only two openings to hitters or relievers. A puzzle yet to be solved.


Here’s how I see it among likely draftable candidates, though I might be missing something.

2013 Draft: J.P. Crawford, Cord Sandberg, Jan Hernandez, Tyler Viza

2014 Draft: Matt Imhof, Aaron Brown, Rhys Hoskins, Brandon Leibrandt, Emmanuel Marrero, Matt Hockenberry, Drew Stankiewicz, Austin Davis, Damek Tomscha, Derek Campbell, Joel Fisher

International: Franklyn Kilome, Luis Encarnacion, Alexis Rivero, Grenny Cumana, Edwin Rodriguez

Trade: Victor Arano

Not really. Tyler Thornburg was moved to Boston and is pretty decent comp for Neris, and I found that package from the Red Sox to be fairly underwhelming. Beyond that, the free agent market had Chapman, Jansen, and Melancon at the high end and then second-level relievers like Ziegler, Uehara, Feliz, and Romo. That doesn’t include high-level trade targets like Wade Davis. Essentially, the market is flush with relievers similar to Neris; maybe once it settle we will hear something, but at this point I have yet to see a market that would get the Phillies a big return for Neris. That is fine, as his value has a chance to continue to go up if he shows that his 2016 was not a fluke and that he is a reliable shutdown reliever.

I honestly don’t know. Mackanin seems fine working with a young team, but he also is not an amazing tactical manager. This leaves most of the analysis outside of the public view. Pitching has been a mixed bag under McClure, but nothing that would make him a liability. It will be a big test to see if he can get the young pitchers to take a step forward this year. Stairs says the right things but has yet to coach. In other words I don’t see an elite coach, but no horrible weaknesses. I think this year will say a lot about what they look like going forward.

Milner took a big step forward in 2016 from fringe reliever to could be a solid LOOGY or maybe middle reliever on a good team. He throws 88-91 with a funky arm angle and solid command. That gives him a chance to have Major League success, but given his overall lack of upside he isn’t going to get many chances if he is bad.

  1. Is Aaron Nola healthy? Pretty self explanatory. He was really really good to start 2016 and the Phillies need that if they want to have success in 2017.
  2. Does Mark Appel look any different? Because of his injury rehab, Appel has been mostly shielded from public view. This means we don’t know yet if the Phillies or he changed anything during or after his rehab. He needs to make improvements to have a Major League role, but he has enough talent that, with the right adjustments, he could be a real asset for the Phillies.
  3. A true competition for the right field job. Roman Quinn is not ideal in right field, but he might be Major League-ready now and he has the dynamic skills to really help the Phillies. Aaron Altherr showed brilliance in 2015, but his injury last year can take a long time to recover from. If those two (and maybe Tyler Goeddel) make it a true competition, it makes a decision to stick with Howie Kendrick in left field more difficult and makes the Phillies a better team in 2017.

I think he is a reliever long term, and I don’t have a lot of hope that he is going to continue to have a ton of success in the rotation. He lacks a usable changeup still and his control is going to cause problems as hitters chase less. That said, there’s no reason to not run him out in that role in Clearwater because he does hold his velocity throughout starts and battles through adversity, making it a great way to get him innings now that his option clock is ticking.

Maybe 50%. The Major League bench does not exist (as detailed above) and their only true lefty bat is Herrera. The Phillies clearly have a need for a left-handed bench bat, one that can play at least LH and 1B most ideal. I am sure the Phillies are monitoring this market, but this is a need for a lot of teams and I don’t know if the Phillies can offer enough money on a one-year deal to offset any multi-year offers or one-year offers from legitimate contenders these players might get.